Date: 28 Apr 2004


Assistant Secretary of the Interior Craig Manson today announced
revised regulations that will encourage private landowners to
undertake voluntary conservation measures on their property to benefit
threatened, endangered and at-risk species.

The new regulations will improve the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's
Safe Harbor and Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances
policies by providing clearer definitions and more certainty to
property owners, Manson said.

"Both Safe Harbors and CCAA's have proven to be powerful tools to
promote conservation and recovery of imperiled species," Manson said.
"The revised regulations we are issuing today will encourage more
landowners to participate in this voluntary conservation by spelling
out more clearly the terms and conditions of the agreements."

"Safe Harbor agreements have been a very effective way of enlisting
the cooperation of private landowners in conserving endangered
species," said Michael J. Bean of Environmental Defense, an
organization that helped develop the first such agreements nearly a
decade ago. "These changes should facilitate the even broader use of
this creative new conservation approach by farmers, ranchers, and
forest landowners."

Under a Safe Harbor agreement, private landowners agree to take
actions on their property to benefit species that are listed as
threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. In
return, they receive assurances that their conservation measures will
not lead to further restrictions on the use of the land if they lead
to an increase in the population of the species on the property.

CCAA's are similar agreements except that they apply to species that
are either proposed for listing under the Act or are on the candidate
list. In these cases, the landowners get assurances that their
conservation actions, if successful, will not lead to further
restrictions under the Act if the species is listed in the future.

There are now 23 Safe Harbor permits covering 29 listed species and
involving more than 130 landowners. More than 50 additional Safe
Harbor Agreements are under development. Seven CCAAs are in effect,
covering 21 species. More than 25 additional CCAAs are under

The revised regulations will make such agreements easier to
understand and implement, by eliminating inconsistencies between the
policies and the regulations used to implement them. In addition,
experience gained since the policies and regulations were adopted in
1999 has shown the need to clarify ambiguities in the regulations that
have been causing confusion for landowners.

For example, the rule also clarifies the process for obtaining
authorization to transfer a permit issued in association with the
agreeements. In addition, the rule clarifies the efforts the Service
will make to avoid the need to revoke a permit.

The rule more explicitly provides landowners with greater certainty
that such agreements will be altered only if continuing an authorized
activity may jeopardize the existence of the protected species. The
rule also ensures that traditional agricultural uses can continue
alongside habitat improvements.

"More than half of threatened and endangered species depend on
private lands for habitat, and if we are going to recover many of
these species, we must work hand-in-hand with landowners to restore
their habitat," Manson said.

* * *

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife
and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the
American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National
Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 542 national wildlife
refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management
areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery
resource offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency
enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species
Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally
significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as
wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation
efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes
hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting
equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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